Dr. Paul J. Mather, the Lubert Family Professor of Cardiology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and cardiologist at the Jefferson Heart Institute, recently wrote about his patient’s curious medical symptoms in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His patient was in her late 20’s and just had her first child. She was experiencing fatigue, swollen feet, coughing and shortness of breath when she woke in the middle of the night.
At first she was prescribed medication for suspected bronchitis but the symptoms continued. After receiving an electrocardiogram (EKG) by her primary care physician, she was rushed to the emergency room for suspected peripartum cardiomyopathy, or decline in cardiac function.
According to Dr. Mather, “When the patient arrived at the hospital, her ejection fraction – how well her heart was pumping – was below 10 percent, indicating heart failure.”
This type of heart failure affects 1 in 2,500 pregnant women in the U.S. and can occur during the last month of pregnancy or within five months after the birth.
Dr. Mather explained the risk factors which include “obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, previous exposure to toxins (such as tobacco, alcohol or cocaine), a personal history of heart inflammation (myocarditis), having twins or previous births, and being of African descent.”
After treating her aggressively to relieve her symptoms, the patient did not need a heart transplant. After treating her sleep apnea, adjusting her diet and teaching her an exercise routine, her heart recovered well. She is now being monitored by Dr. Mather and his team as an outpatient.